CAR artifact pics

The 1st Annual Perryton Family Archaeology Field Day

On October 3rd, 2009 Courson Archaeological Research (CAR) staff and volunteers hosted its first annual Family Archaeology Field Day.  The goal of this event was to increase the knowledge and appreciation of the prehistoric and historic cultures that occupied the region prior to settlement through “hands on” activities and games.  This event, co-sponsored by the Museum of the Plains, Perryton, Texas, was geared toward families with children ages 6 and up. 

This family event was held at the Museum of the Plains from noon until 4:00 and began with a lunch (Figures 1-5).  Shortly thereafter, participants were split up into individual groups and were escorted to one of seven different educational stations (Figure 6).  Each station was led by one or two leaders and assisted by two or three additional volunteers.  After thirty minutes of instruction and “hands on” activities, each group was escorted to the next station.  The following provides a brief overview of the topics and activities associated with each of the seven stations.


Figure 1 Field Day Registration


Figure 2 Dustin Batten Cooking on the Grill


Figure 3 Danny Witt Supervising the Serving


Figure 4 Participants going through the Food Line


Figure 5 Participants Enjoying their Meal


Figure 6 Sorting Participants into Station Groups


Two of the stations were held outdoors and provided an introduction to prehistoric hunting technologies of the Southern High Plains.  At Station #1, participants learned about prehistoric hunting techniques in which spears propelled by a throwing stick known as an atlatl were used (Figure 7).  The latter enabled spears to be thrown with much greater velocity and accuracy.  This hunting technology was used by societies of the region from about 11,500 BC until sometime around A.D. 400 when the bow-and-arrow first appeared in the area.  These spears were tipped with spear or dart points and were used to kill medium to large game, such as deer, pronghorn, and bison.  After a short introduction on throwing techniques, participants honed their hunting techniques by throwing spears at a large target (Figures 8-17).


Figure 7 Volunteer George Brosowske Demonstrates Spear Throwing


Figure 8 Participant and her Spear


Figure 9 Dempsey Malaney shows off his Skills


Figure 10 Participant Aiming for the Target


Figure 11 Sheriff Bouchard taking a Turn


Figure 12 Sheriff Bouchard at the Target


Figure 13 Participant and Spear


Figure 14 An Adult Participant takes a Turn


Figure 15 Participant and her Spear


Figure 16 Joaquin Rivaya-Martinez shows off his Skills


Figure 17 Participants Getting Ready to Throw


At Station #2 participants learned about hunting smaller game.  Short throwing sticks, called “Rabbit Sticks”, were likely used by adults and children to hunt small game, such as cottontails, jackrabbits, prairie dogs, and snakes.  Once again, after a short introduction on throwing techniques, participants threw their sticks at one of three targets: a jackrabbit, an armadillo, and a jackalope (Figures 18-23).  With one of the better shots of the day, Griffin Brosowske scored a “Kill Shot” on the highly sought after jackalope at a distance of 15.6 m (51 ft).


Figure 18 View of the Rabbit Stick Targets


Figure 19 Leader Doug Wilkens Demonstrating


Figure 20 Participant Throwing at the Targets


Figure 21 Participant Throwing at the Targets


Figure 22 Retrieving the Rabbit Sticks


Figure 23 Participant Throwing at the Targets

The remaining stations were held inside the Museum of the Plains.  At Station #3 participants were taught about flintknapping and the manufacture of chipped stone tools by prehistoric societies of the region (Figure 24).  To eliminate the possibility of injury to participants while conducting a live flintknapping demonstration, a short, eight minute long video on flintknapping techniques was shown at this station (Figures 25 and 26).  The video starred CAR volunteer James Coverdale and was filmed, produced, and edited by Shawn Barberee of PTSI (Panhandle Telecommunication Systems Incorporated). 

Following the video, a paper handout explaining the cultural chronology of the region and the various dart and arrowpoint types common to each of the prehistoric periods was distributed to participants (Figure 27).  Also, on hand at this station was a comparative collection containing examples of stone raw materials commonly used in the area for the manufacture of chipped stone tools.  Finally, using the guide handed out earlier participants were given a handout with illustrations of different projectile points of the area and were challenged to identify these artifacts.


Figure 24 James Coverdale provides an Introduction to Flintknapping


Figure 25 Participants Watching the Flintknapping Video


Figure 26 Participants Watching the Flintknapping Video


Figure 27 James Going Over the Handouts


Station #4 introduced participants to one of the many games played by Native American societies of the Plains, including the Blackfoot, Assiniboine, Crow, Arikara, Mandan, Cheyenne, and Pawnee.  This game, called the “Bear and Turtle Dice Game”, is played by two participants who sit opposite one another and hold eight, small wooden sticks.  Each player takes a turn at tossing five, flat bone dice in a shallow basket.  Two of the dice are marked with a figure representing the foot of a bear on one side and blank on the other.  The other three dice are marked with a cross-shaped design representing the paint patterns often worn on the faces of Cheyenne girls on one side and blank on the other.  Each of the rolls, consisting of a combination of bears, crosses, and blanks, has a certain numerical score ranging from zero to eight.  If a player rolls a four, for example, then he or she wins that many sticks from their opponent.  The game continues until one of the players wins all of the opposing players’ sticks (Figures 28-35). 
We made six sets of the “Bear and Turtle Dice Game” for our field day.  These sets were modeled after a set collected from the Cheyenne in the 19th century contained in the collections of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska.  It was certainly fun to watch how excited the players got while playing this game!


Figure 28 Layout of the Station with Supplies


Figure 29 Leaders Rachel Barnes and Cydney Chadick Teaching the Rules of the Game


Figure 30 Participant Tallying up His Score


Figure 31 Participant Tallying up Her Score


Figure 32 Participants Playing the Game


Figure 33 Participants Playing the Game


Figure 34 Participant Counting Her Sticks


Figure 35 Participant Shaking Her Dice


At Station #5 participants were introduced to Plains Indian ledger art.  Ledger art represented a transitional art form that spanned the late pre-reservation and early reservation periods from about 1860 until 1890.  Given the rapid reduction of the bison herds coupled with the increased availability of Euro-American goods acquired through trade and as annuity payments during this period, painting on bison hides was replaced by artwork on paper, cloth, canvas, and cowhide.  This work is called “Ledger Art” since business ledger account books were most frequently used.  In addition to new canvasses, Plains artists also made use of new implements, such as colored pencils, crayons, and at times, watercolors.

Participants at this station learned that traditional Plains Indian artwork generally depicted hunting, raiding, and military exploits.  Later, after the forced relocation from native tribal lands, artwork gradually came to reflect daily life on tribal reservations.  Using colored pencils and card paper stock participants produced artwork in the traditional style of ledger art that depicted events in their lives (Figures 36-45).


Figure 36 Layout of Station with Supplies


Figure 37 Museum Director Brandy Walker provides an Introduction to Ledger Art


Figure 38 Brandy showing a Reproduction of the Kiowa Calendar by Sett’an to the Participants


Figure 39 Attentive Participants Listen to Lecture


Figure 40 Participants Creating their own Ledger Art


Figure 41 Participant Creating her own Ledger Art


Figure 42 Ledger Art Poster #1


Figure 43 Ledger Art Poster #2


Figure 44 Ledger Art Poster #3


Figure 45 Ledger Art Poster #4


Field day participants were introduced to Plains Indian ornament and jewelry making at Station #6.  Participants were shown actual examples of German silver ornaments and brass wire bracelets and finger rings recovered from historic period Kiowa camps and villages along Wolf Creek which are on display at the Museum of the Plains.  Photographs taken by Will Soule of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne from 1868 to 1874 were also shown to the participants to demonstrate how these items were worn by Native Americans of the region.

After this brief introduction, participants were invited to make their own wire bracelet or glass bead necklace (Figures 46-60).  Straight sections of copper wire in various lengths were prepared prior to the field day and were available for making bracelets.  Also on hand were triangular and flat files for decorating bracelets with incised lines, cross-hatching or other designs.  After decoration and polishing, the sections of copper wire were bent to fit using oval wooden forms made previously. 

Those electing to make necklaces were provided with reproduction pony and tile glass beads typical of those obtained through trade by the Southern Plains Tribes between the 1840’s and 1870’s.  The beads provided included a wide variety of different colors and were strung on imitation sinew.  If requested, younger participants were also provided with colored charts depicting different traditional bead patterns to use as models for their necklaces.  All of the beads and sinew used for this station were purchased from the Crazy Crow Trading Post in Pottsburro, Texas.


Figure 46 Layout of Station with Supplies


Figure 47 Selecting Beads for Necklaces


Figure 48 Participants making Necklaces and Bracelets


Figure 49 Participants making Jewelry


Figure 50 Leaders Doris Glassey and Lisa Brosowske Helping Participants


Figure 51 Participants and their Beads


Figure 52 Filing Decorations on a Bracelet


Figure 53 Making Necklaces


Figure 54 Stringing Beads on Necklaces


Figure 55 A Finished Necklace


Figure 56 Finished Bracelets


Figure 57 Another Finished Necklace


Figure 58 Filing Decorations on a Bracelet


Figure 59 Bracelet Bending Form


Figure 60 Doris Bending a Bracelet

The final station of the field day examined the many uses of the yucca (Yucca glauca) plant by Native Americans of the region.  For example, participants discovered that the root of this plant was pounded and mixed with water to make a shampoo, a lotion for minor skin irritations and rashes, and soap for general washing.  The plant was also used for medicinal purposes.  These included using a mixture of pulverized yucca root and tepid water for stomach aches and using the root in poultice wrap for inflammations and to stop bleeding.  The leaves of the yucca plant can also be pounded to make them pliable and woven to produce baskets or matting.  Prehistoric examples of yucca cordage, mats, and basketry have been recovered at several dry rockshelters along the margins of the Southern High Plains.

Participants at this station were instructed on how to make cordage and rope using yucca leaves.  The first step involves pounding the yucca leaves or spears on a stone anvil using a wooden mallet.  The leaves are then scraped using the sharp edge of a chipped stone flake to remove the outer, fleshy material.  At this point, the tough plant fibers remaining are twisted into small to large sized strands, depending on the diameter of the cordage desired, and braided together.

After learning how to make cordage the participants were also shown how the end of a yucca leave can be pounded, scraped, and frayed to make a usable paintbrush.  Using these implements the participants used watercolor paints to recreate pictographs or rock art painting typical of the prehistoric and historic periods of the Southern Plains (Figures 61-68).


Figure 61 Leader Alvin Lynn Providing a Lecture


Figure 62 Participants making Yucca Leave Paintbrushes


Figure 63 Close-up of Brush Manufacture


Figure 64 Participants Painting with their New Brushes


Figure 65 Alvin Supervising the Painting


Figure 66 Finished Hand Paintings


Figure 67 Participant and his finished Artwork


Figure 68 Finished Hand Painting


During the field day CAR employee Danny Witt manned an artifact identification table.  Participants were invited to bring collections of artifacts and Danny helped with identification and aging.  Also on display at the table were artifacts from the collections of CAR and a variety of free archaeological literature and posters (Figures 69-73).


Figure 69 Leaders James and Danny at the CAR Table


Figure 70 Cases of Chipped Stone Artifacts from the CAR Collections


Figure 71 Free Archaeology Brochures and Posters


Figure 72 Cases of Chipped Stone Artifacts from the CAR Collections


Figure 73 Close-up of Artifact Case



After a short break for lemonade and homemade cookies baked by some of our local Perryton volunteers (Figures 74 and 75), the 1st Annual Family Archaeology Field Day concluded with an awards ceremony.  Here, all of the participants received a personalized certificate and a prize for their participation in the event (Figures 76-78).

All in all, we were very excited with the overall success of this event.  It was very well attended (Figures 79 and 80) and it was clear that the participants learned a lot about native peoples that inhabited our region prior to settlement.  Perhaps most importantly, everyone who attended had a lot of fun!  Courson Archaeological Research would like to thank all of the families that participated in this event, the Museum of the Plains for co-sponsoring the family field day, and all of the volunteers who helped prepare, organize, and put on the field day.  We learned a lot from hosting this event and are looking forward to putting it on again next year!


Figure 74 Youth Volunteers George Brosowske, Kevin Olvera, and Ivan Tevis Enjoying Cookies with Griffin Brosowske and Riley Dear


Figure 75 Participants having a Snack


Figure 76 Making Participant Certificates


Figure 77 Volunteers Sorting Door Prizes


Figure 78 Brandy, Dempsey, and Jim Walker Handing Out Certificates


Figure 79 Participant Group Photo


Figure 80 Participant Group Photo





Website ©2008 Courson Archaeological Research. Unless otherwise noted, materials from this website may be reproduced for nonprofit educational purposes; please cite or link to source page. This page last updated December 1, 2009 I think this is a spacer